Celebrating 62 years of friendship with Jarnac

Thursday July 21st 2022


Dalkeith/Jarnac Twinning Group gifted 3 prints of historic buildings of Dalkeith by local artist Ron Lugg.

Article written by Sandy Howden, Dalkeith/Jarnac Twinning Group.

Dalkeith in Midlothian has been twinned with the town of Jarnac in Charente, France since 1960. This summer, a group of 8 people from the Dalkeith/Jarnac Twinning Group travelled to Jarnac to celebrate the 60th Anniversary of the signing of the Charter between our two towns. Plans had first been made for a 2020 trip but Covid-19 delayed our proposed visit.

We arrived separately through different travel arrangements from the Saturday till the Tuesday when we were joined by Midlothian’s new Provost Debbi McCall and Councillor Margot Russell for the celebration week which was jam packed with events. On their first visits to Jarnac, both did a brilliant job in representing our county and our town of Dalkeith on such an important occasion.

On France’s National Day, 14th July (known in the UK as Bastille Day) there was a full day of celebrations. The programme started in the morning where the Twinning Charter was re-dedicated and signed in front of the Mairie (Town Council headquarters). As well as our own 60th anniversary, Jarnac’s other twinned towns were celebrating their own landmark dates: Lautertal, Germany (40 years); Donnacona, Canada (27 years); Dogliani, Italy (20 years). Speeches were made on the steps of the Mairie by Jarnac’s Mayor and representatives of the other countries and gifts were exchanged in front of a large crowd gathered to watch the proceedings. Flags of the countries and coats of arms of all the 5 towns were flown in the main streets and there were information panels and photos from the past featuring our twinned towns.

Provost Debbi McCall gave her speech in French to much applause and appreciation. After the ceremonies, drinks and hors d’oeuvre were served in a shaded area beside the Mairie out of the 36C degree heat. It was a great opportunity to meet up with old friends and renew acquaintances. One person I met came over to Dalkeith to play football for the Jarnac team against the team Gordon Duckett organised in 1970, a team from the SMT. He was very proud to have played in the match and has many fond memories of the trip to Dalkeith. He recalled writing to a girl he befriended for over a year but she moved to Ireland and they lost touch.

My wife Margaret met up with her penfriend, Marylise that she had been writing to since 1968 and first met in person in 1970 when Margaret went over with Dalkeith High School. Both Marylise and Margaret are now grandparents and have met many times when we go over to Jarnac and the region for holidays.

There was also a fantastic picnic laid on for all the Twinning visitors cooked on a Bar-B-Q like only the French can pull off at ease. This was gladly in the shade of trees in the beautiful park in the middle of Jarnac. Later in the evening of 14th July, there was a community dinner in the main square of Jarnac, the Place du Château, then a fabulous fireworks display at night (featuring music from the countries of the twinned towns) to bring Bastille Day to a close.

Included in the celebrations laid on for us were visits to Aubeterre where we were served a wonderful lunch in the Salle des Fêtes before we toured the small historic town and visited the subterranean monolithic church of Saint-Jean of Aubeterre. Later that evening, we were also entertained to a fantastic son et lumière in the village of Bourg Charente telling the story of cognac, attended by a huge crowd from all over the region. There was free time also for us to go round the region.

The Provost Debbi went to tour one of the many cognac distilleries in the nearby town of Cognac, meanwhile Councillor Russell was taken round the spectacular Bassac Abbey and a drive along the beautiful Charente River to the Roman Bridges then onto the memorial to a hero of the Resistance, Claude Bonnier who, during the Second World War, helped rescue British Airmen escape after being shot down. After a year Claude Bonnier was caught by the occupying forces and died by suicide.

On the Saturday evening, the Soirée Officielle dance was attended by 160 people. We were entertained by speeches and gift exchanges from the Twinning Associations. Dalkeith/Jarnac Twinning Group gifted 3 beautiful prints of historic buildings of Dalkeith by local artist Ron Lugg who permitted the Group to use his drawings free of charge. The digital files of the drawings were taken to Riccio Gallery in Dalkeith who enlarged the prints and produced them on giclée paper using giclée ink and mounted them in black frames. Carlo did a fantastic job and it caused a big stir when they were unveiled in front of the crowd in the dining room. The small inscription plaques for the frames were made by Apache in Tait Street and mounted on each frame. The Twinning Group also gifted quaichs to each of the other 3 presidents of the twinning associations and they also were supplied by Apache. This means the gifts to the Jarnac Twinning Association and the 3 other twinning friends were all made by Dalkeith people. Dalkeith/Jarnac Twinning Group President Christine McPhillips did a great job presenting these wonderful gifts all made in Dalkeith to our friends in the twinning at the Soirée Officielle.

All our au revoirs were made at the end of a fantastic night and friendships cemented once more in this wonderful liason with towns all over western Europe and Canada. There is lots more I could tell about this event and past events with all the people over the years in Dalkeith who have been involved but that can be for another time if the editor allows it.

If anyone would like to know more about our Group or attend our meetings, please email: dalkeithjarnactg@hotmail.com

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